Exercise 3.7 A significant object – background tests

21st January 2020

‘Family Stories’

For this exercise we are asked to choose a specific object that is significant to us, photograph it, taking into account its background, viewpoint, placement, light and composition. We are then asked, ‘ Does the photograph (the representation) have the same meaning as the object itself? Is there a difference?”

For this exercise I have decided, after so many choices and then rejecting them, to photograph my grandad Lake’s Polaroid 1000 Land Camera. I still use this camera today, I love its ‘todays’ flaws where the image is blurred, has roll lines on it and also cracking of the film. I had already rejected objects such as – my bed, I thought about Tracy Emin here, book, caesarian scar, scissors which I use to cut myself, objects of art my daughters have made for me, rare autographed posters, rare CDs, vinyls, you name it and so many more…

I have decided to include photography books within the shot as an added interest to the image as I haven’t ever shot still life images where the object is the pure focus and we have been asked to think about the background.

I did think that the OCAs explanation in text was good to explain this exercise but I feel they have made a mistake by only showing one of Penny Watsons, OCA student’s significant object. they have shown us her initial photograph but not her following three which means the image is out of context for what they have asked us to do.

26th January 2020

I had begun to photograph my own and my youngest daughter camera. The trial shots were used to figure out composition, lighting and props etc…

I had also decided that the background would contain information and/ or an image of the camera that is being photographed which would be seen on the computer behind the cameras themselves. I also chose to put photography books each side etc… to add to the overall feel of the completed composition.

One book is titled, ‘Family Stories,’ and because it is my camera which was my grandads and both of my daughters cameras I thought it would be creative to include the title within the shots and also to title the work after it. After all we are family and it is our story about our love for photography, three generations in fact.

The images can be seen below in the contact sheet:

The above contact sheet shows my initial thoughts on photographing our cameras. I have to ask myself now, do the surrounding books contain to much visual information i.e. text, images and colours which distracts from the main subject matter, the cameras? To help me think this question over I have chosen the best few to critic.

The pre-trial helped in many ways. How I envisaged things in my brain didn’t quite work out in reality. Some of the shots meant that the camera was not the main subject as it was lost amongst the books and appeared far too small within the picture frame. The computer information within some of the shots meant that at some point while viewing parts of the image our eyes were drawn to the furthest background information (the computer) so yet again the camera was not the main subject of the image.

From the critic I gained two shots which I had to choose between. These shots are below.

From here I was able to analyse the images to see which one suited the outcome I was after.

The image on the left drawers your eyes straight to the camera. The camera is large and just off centre, the books do not distract your eyes from the main subject at all they just fill the negative space.

The camera on the right lets us see more of cameras body with some of its side showing. However the book that it sits on is quite distracting because the text of the title is large and falls directly beneath the camera itself. Our eyes are drawn to the text after the camera. Perhaps if it is at an angle like it is within image one, the text will be less distracting.

The lighting within the image I like. The lighting is not natural but from the overhead natural day light bulb. I like this lighting because it is white, crisp, clear and bright. I also like how the shadow falls off to the left of the objects.

My next step is now to shoot at the same time the three different cameras.

10th February 2020

I have had to have a bit of a break to complete this exercise because my eldest daughter what with work and then going away on holiday hasn’t been able to be present for her phone to be photographed. Today or should I say tonight will be the first time we all have been able to be together at the same time so therefore I will shoot the images later.

OK, it didn’t go as easily as planned. For some unknown reason my camera is allergic to poppy’s camera and did not like photographing it. I am presuming because it is darker than the Polaroid and the iPhone and with the limited light it was having trouble focusing.

The contact sheet for the second shot can be seen below. As you can see there are quite a number of underexposed images when it came to trying to shoot my youngest blue Lumix camera.

Final shots

Unfortunately having looked closely at the images, most are in fact slightly out of focus. This is due to the fact that I hand held the camera for the shots with a slow shutter speed. The evening definitely was not the best time to take these photographs at the settings I used and without the tripod.

There is nothing I can really do apart from waiting another week to complete this exercise and shoot it in the daylight when my eldest daughter is at home.

11th February 2020

Bless my daughter, she came home early today so I still had some natural light to shoot in combined with overhead daylight bulb to enhance the light that I had.

I set up as I had for the previous two shoots and just carried on from where I had left off. Although I had changed the books around and had taken out Lee Friedlander’s ‘Nudes’ as it just didn’t go well with the theme and the fact it was a family orientated shoot.

The contact sheet of the third and final shoot can be seen below:

Final shoot

A few of my shots are underexposed because I forgot to check the f-stops and settings and the only other point that I could have improved on was the composition of the books. Each image has the books within them but they are all slightly different in that the books angles or how much is present in the shot differ ever so slightly.

The three shots that I have chosen can be seen below in their unadjusted form. The images show a slight alteration in colour and composition but I do not think the differences are too dramatic and I am hoping I may be able to adjust them in Photoshop so that they gel as a series more.

The differences that immediately jump out at you are the brilliance in the white of the text and book in the middle shot and the three different greys that I have obtained on the books in the right shot. The last differences are where I have cropped the image in camera of the word PHOTOGRAPHY which runs underneath the cameras.

Because of this I altered the images in Photoshop using the following adjustments: Brightness, Contrast, Levels – black, Saturation – decrease -13; Colour balance – red + 15. Most of these adjustments were made on the Polaroid image. I increased the red due to the fact that some of the background colours were warmer in the other two images.

When I view the images I also find that the book filled space on the right is far too large, it becomes a waste of space and unfortunately our eyes are drawn there. I feel that the images need to be cropped so that the right hand space becomes smaller and the cameras more of a focus.

12th February 2020

To begin with I wondered which size to crop the work so that they were all identical. My first choice was a square format which would therefore provide a box shape around the camera allowing just a small amount of background and side information from the books to be included within the image. This would therefore mean the main focus would be the camera and the books a secondary source of information. I also thought that I still want the books included within the shot as our love for books is also paramount to our being and the research we all do into subjects of interest, it strengthens the subject matter of the shoot.

I also noticed however that my adjustments within the Polaroid image has made the background white off balance and they now have a brown/ red hue. Although the blacks have gained the tones I was after.

Below are the square images:

After analysing these shots I was happy with the images that I had obtained. The cameras were the main focus, the compositions were nearly the same and the overall visual image was informative and to the point. The cropping is different in each image, only slightly due to the fact that each camera is a different shape and size. Therefore getting an identical layout for the books proved to be difficult but I decided it didn’t draw the eyes away from the cameras and one didn’t sit and compare the book information.

I was also able to note that there were some problems with my images. The whiteness of each image is different as is the contrast, ever so slightly but noticeable if you are analysing the images closely. You can tell this by looking at the book titles ‘Family Stories’ by Gillian Wearing in the background and the four Hoxton Press books on the right of the cameras whose grey spines are a different shade within each shot.

I had also noticed how there were dust and particles stuck to the Lumix handgrip which has become sticky over time and a hair is present on the iPhone which I didn’t notice when I was shooting the cameras. There is nothing I can do about the mess on the handgrip, it is what it is, part and parcel of what these cameras go like in the end according to the research that I had completed. As for the hair on the iPhone I would have to clone it out in Photoshop.

There was one part of each image that I didn’t like which is probably me being pedantic and that was the colour tint in the Polaroid image and the colour of the book below the word PHOTOGRAPHY. I believe they detract ever so slightly away from the colour in the cameras themselves. Therefore I decided to see how the images would look as black and white ones, it fits in with the concept that the cameras and the books are significant to us because black and white photography is also very significant because it is the style that I use the most.

With this in mind I decided to convert the images into black and white. I also trialed a setting that I have on my iPad within Photoshop Express which creates a faded effect where the details are taken out and a block effect is used making the images quite artistic and abstract. These images can be seen below:

On seeing the above images on completion, I was still not happy with my results. The faded adjustment were far to artistic and did not fit the brief and also detracted from the camera as main subject and what they are supposed to mean to us as individuals.

The black and white conversions I liked because all the books became connected in that they were all black and white but the cameras again lost their identities. This is because the colour was taken from them, especially the motif of the coloured stripes and green button on the Polaroid and the iPhones case cover colours and the gold that surrounded the three lenses.

I also decided that, although I liked the crop far better than the original size of the images, a square one just did not sit correctly with my eyes.

I therefore decided to look at different sized standard crops one could use and decided to colour the cameras back into the images but leave the books black and white. This would therefore keep the foreground, background and sides in the images one tone and the colour of the cameras would mean they would be brought forwards and attract the viewers eyes.

I decided to go for a 10×8 crop and enlarge the cameras within the working space until I achieved a size that I was happy to work with. Once I had achieved this for all three images I opened them in a photography app called ‘Color Splash’ which converted them to black and white, I chose brush size and type and I coloured the cameras back into the image.

The end result was that the cameras now stand out perfectly. I know it is not a strict ‘photograph’ as it has creative adjustments made to it but it packs a punch and brings out cameras as main subject while allowing our books to stay in the shot as well.

It took me quite a while to obtain an end image that I actually liked and could relate to as a creative photographer. I have presented a significant object and I have given it meaning by making the adjustments in ‘Color Splash.’

The only really big criticism I have which may be because still life is not my type of photography and one that I have never completed before, is that the final images remind me of an advertising campaign and I am not so sure that this is a good thing. After all it is supposed to resonate a connection of photographer to the object present in the image and not a chance to advertise a ‘buy this now’ thought – or is it me again over thinking?

2 thoughts on “Exercise 3.7 A significant object – background tests

Add yours

  1. Hi Dawn, I have really enjoyed reading this exercise and all your trial and errors to come to the final 3 images. Yet again your work has given me a lot of food for thought for when I arrive at this exercise.


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